Remember all those headlines about Boris Johnson from last year?
If not, here’s a selection (there were a lot to choose from):
- “Boris Johnson’s triumph of populism comes straight from the Trump playbook”, Andrew Grice – The Independent.
- “The hard right has captured my old party – and Boris Johnson’s victory proves it”, Anna Soubry – The Guardian.
- “The Guardian view on Johnson v parliament: an unelective dictatorship”.
You get the gist, right? We all know what some liberal papers – and indeed MPs – said about the PM: that he’s a dictator/ populist/ fascist/ mini Trump, and the rest.
One article in The New York Times even warned that the Tories will bring “more draconian sentencing and ever harsher borders”, adding that these would be “terrifying prospects.”
Had these forecasts been correct, you might expect Johnson to tackle coronavirus in something of a heavy-handed way.
Perhaps that he might ignore his chief medical experts and do his own thing, shutting facilities up and down the country – and blaming others for the virus.
Maybe he would be theatrical in his response – telling everyone that he will personally cure coronavirus and announcing that British medicine is the best in the world.
Instead, the liberal fearmongers are having something of a reality check as to how wrong their characterisations of Johnson were.
For starters, would a “dictator” wheel out doctors at every possible moment, giving them more time than himself on the podium – to tell the country what to do?
Would a dictator even follow doctors’ orders at all – in shaping government policy?
We know what the answer is. No.
The fact Johnson has taken their advice – and been transparent about information at every opportunity – completely undermines many of the character assassinations against him.
But here’s the irony: now his critics have complained that he isn’t draconian enough!
The Guardian’s Ireland correspondent seemed to suggest that the Taoiseach’s decision to close down schools implied that the UK should do the same, warning that it would expose “a stark divergence” in the UK response – putting “pressure on Boris Johnson to follow suit”.
According to Lewis Goodall, Policy Editor at the BBC’s Newsnight, opposition parties have also been putting pressure on the government to “explain why there is such a big difference in approach from UK vs other countries”. In other words, they want Johnson to justify why he is not closing everything down.
All of this points out that Johnson simply cannot win in his coronavirus approach.
The Tories are not perfect; they are doing the best they can with the information they have, and only time will tell which government had the correct approach to coronavirus, and which country’s medical advisors were the best.
But if Johnson shut down schools right now, one suspects the reaction would be even more apoplectic than it currently is.
What do his critics actually want? On draconian measures, they need a re-think…